Friday, October 15, 2010

Static

I first heard it when I woke at six, a hollow moaning rising from the dry patch beyond the yard. Figured I’d make a move to investigate when Annie rose at half-past, but then was deeply involved in cooking eggs for her.
“It’s been a long time since you made breakfast for me,” she said. She seemed reluctant to throw off the comforter. “Did you leave the kettle whistling on the stove?”
I said I hadn’t but I’d check to make sure, and went back out to the kitchen. I sat and rolled myself a cigarette.
I had only smoked half when she hollered, “What’s that?”
“Nothing, love.”
A couple minutes later she came out, tying the cloth belt of her terry robe. “It’s coming from outside,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed.
“Won’t you see about it?”
For a moment or two I thought I might, but when Annie turned on the radio and all it produced was sputtering static, my resolve faltered.
“Why don’t you get dressed?” I said instead. And where’s your breakfast plate?”
“Coward,” she said. She turned off the useless radio and headed back toward the bedroom.
“It doesn’t sound like a human in pain,” I said to the closed door.
“All the same,” she said, “I thought you were my protection.”
“What if it’s carrying something?”
“Well, if it dies, it could be just as dangerous later as now.”
We had already desexed whoever or whatever was making that awful noise.

I sat at the table thinking, but concentrating was difficult. When we’d first bought the farm, I sat that way for hours on end, marveling at the quiet. We were so glad to leave the city behind us. Annie would play solitaire in the parlor, and I’d sit and smoke and think.
Around noon she came out with the dish. It still had most of the eggs on it and she hadn’t touched the toast, either.

When evening fell and we discovered there was no light by which to read, we decided to go to sleep early.
Annie lay far off on her side of the bed and there was more than the usual space between us.
I awoke around 11:30 to see a beam of light coming through the closed window, then I realized it had grown silent. I rose and walked quietly to the window and pulled down the top pane to let in a little air. There was no sound at all. Not even the owl, nor the crickets. The beam flickered and faded. I couldn’t see the stars. The only thing visible then was the hard white moon against an empty black sky.

3 comments:

  1. I'm curious as to what you did between 'round noon' and early bedtime/11.30 p.m. Did you go out and investigate the noise, or stay in? (I'm not blaming you, just curious - I'd've been scared too, by exactly the same understated, self-inflicted sort of thing that's happening here.)

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  2. Now I see the context. Great sci-fi short, Mud. I'd happily read more of this story, if you have the inclination and can find the time to continue. Strangely, however, I like the short version better. I appreciate the effort you put in to condense it into a tasty appetizer. That was no small task, I imagine.

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  3. This is rich and spooky and seriously portentous. Like Mike, I would absolutely read more about this situation. I'm particularly curious as to why you could see the moon but not the stars. But mostly I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories...the kind that so deftly leave holes that I can fill in. More, please.

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